The following is a quote from David Coleman’s speech, “Bringing the Common Core to Life,” which he delivered to a host of New York educators on April 28, 2011. Over the next two days we will read this text closely, probe with text-based questions, and present text-based evidence to support our arguments. (Touche.) We will try to persuade you a bit, too.
Do people know the two most popular forms of writing in the American high school today? Texting someone said; I don’t think that’s for credit though yet. But I would say that as someone said it is personal writing. It is either the exposition of a personal opinion or it is the presentation of a personal matter. The only problem, forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem with those two forms of writing is as you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a sheet about what you feel or what you think. What they instead care about is can you make an argument with evidence, is there something verifiable behind what you’re saying or what you think or feel that you can demonstrate to me. It is rare in a working environment that someone says, “Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.” That is rare.
1. What is the text in this con-text?
In this presentation, David Coleman, who favors arguing over persuading, must draw his evidence from “the text.” In this case, we argue (pun intended) there are a few texts: the American classroom, the political climate, the body of research literature that informed Coleman’s decision-making as lead author of the Common Core State Standards, to name a few. Coleman also reads the crowd, the time, the energy in the room, an assortment of newspapers. Are his statements in this presentation to New York educators text-based? Sometimes. (Evidence to follow.)
2. Giving a sheet.
As if David Coleman saying “people really don’t give a sh*t” wasn’t enough of a gift for bloggers, NYSED’s use of “sheet” in the transcript is blogatorial manna. It makes us feel like Miranda’s mother: Such fun!
Let us first clarify that we don’t think that David ever implies, in this speech or elsewhere, that he doesn’t give a sheet about how children feel, as some bloggers have argued. We do not think David is evil. In fact, we don’t even think that he thinks that people in work environments don’t give a sheet about how people really feel. We think he was just trying to persuade (hmmmm….) us all. Here’s some evidence for our perspective:
In the spirit of persuasion, we point out that we have had a number of jobs over our careers and, more often than not, we have worked with bosses who cared about how we felt. In fact, we were often hired because we felt certain ways and worked to align our actions with those convictions. Even today, as independent consultants, whether we work or not depends largely on people caring what we feel and think. So, we hold the personal opinion that, often in the college and career world, people really do give a sheet about how you feel and what you think.
In the spirit of argument, watch this video (our text) and consider the following text-based evidence. In the moment David delivers the aforementioned presentation, he cared very much about how the audience felt. (Stand back, here comes a specific reference to the text!) For example, in the opening paragraph David mentions his mother, his childhood experiences in New York Schools, and New York’s allies on the Common Core development team. His is not the dry, data-dense verbiage of argumentation. No! (Notice how I used an exclamation to persuade? Exclamatory punctuation has no place in argument.) David’s opening narration bubbles over with the warmth of persuasion, that baseless, toothless, biased thief of instructional time. And David Coleman knows he is persuading in that opening moment. Watch David cross his ankles. Feel his practiced delivery (This is not a criticism, just an observation. Of course he practiced. Wouldn’t you?!). We are confident that as David presented, he knew that the two hours of arguable argumentation laced with persuasion that would follow, could be heard or dismissed based on whether he was persuasive and connected to the audience emotionally in the first few minutes.
So, not only are we not convinced that the line between personal and professional articulation is as clear as David Coleman suggests, we don’t think David Coleman thinks the distinctions between persuasion and argumentation are so categorical. His actions speak louder than all those words.
3… More fun tomorrow!